Josiah Wedgwood and Sons, generally known as Wedgwood, is a British pottery firm.
Founded by Josiah Wedgwood in 1753, the Wedgwood factory produced a wide range of ceramic goods, including vases, plates and decorative pieces.
Joseph Wedgwood, with the help of established potter Thomas Whieldon, launched a new pottery venture in 1753 that would go on to become one of Britain’s most famous manufacturers of fine pottery.
Wedgewood began life at Ivy House in Burslem, UK. Burlsem is situated in Stoke-on-Trent, in a region known as the potteries and still considered the home of British pottery manufacture.
In 1765, Wedgwood achieved royal patronage. Royal consort Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, wife of King George III and passionate interior decorator, gave Wedgwood permission to call a specific earthenware form to which she had taken quite a shine “Queen’s Ware”. Queen’s Ware subsequently sold in large quantities, to international buyers, cementing the Wedgwood name as synonymous with quality and refinement.
Wedgwood’s most well known ware is Jaspar Ware – a stone ware, generally produced in pale blue and white, boasting a matte finish. (“Jaspar” refers to the mineral content of the formula used to produce the stoneware.) Jaspar Ware was created to resemble cameo glass, which was incredibly popular during the period. The first Jaspar Ware colour was “Portland Blue” – in honour of the famous Roman cameo glass vase, the Portland Vase, which is kept in the British Museum in London. As a general rule, Jaspar Ware can be dated by the style of the potter’s marks, which can be found on the base of any piece. Today, replica Jaspar Ware is still produced by Wedgwood, who are currently owned by KPS Capital. Modern Jaspar Ware is produced in the same neo-classical style as original Jaspar Ware, though back-stamps enable collectors to clearly distinguish between the two periods.
For the time and effort, as well as the skill required to perfect the formula for Jaspar Ware, Josiah Wedgwood was elected to the Royal Society in 1783.
Wedgwood pottery designs were heavily influenced by Greek and Roman myths and legends, and classical pottery forms. Motifs were lifted from their original narrative and historical contexts and used to adorn vases, chargers and bowls. A vast number of Wedgwood wares could even be understood as replicas of historical artefacts.
Royal and political figures in silhouette were popular among both designer and the buying public, while political figures, and architectural features, such as mouldings and columns, were used a great deal.
In 1774 Wedgwood employed young American ceramic artist John Flaxman. “Dancing Hours” is his most well known design. The Dancing Hours depicts the classical Horae, goddesses representing the various seasons and hours of the day, in bas relief. In later years, the dancing figures were more elaborately covered in order to conceal their “charms”. Other notable artists known to have been employed by Wedgwood include George Stubbs, Emma Crewe, Elizabeth Templedown and Lady Diana Beauclerk.
The firm’s hard paste porcelain, created to resemble the expensive, bone white tea wares imported from China, proved very popular among eighteenth and early nineteenth century high society. In 1812, Wedgwood introduced bone china lines, which, though not a commercial success to begin with, became a crucial strand in an extremely profitable business.
Enoch Wedgwood (1813–1879), a distant cousin of the first Josiah, was also a potter and founded his own firm, Wedgwood & Co, in 1860. It was taken over by Josiah Wedgwood & Sons in 1980.
Known for quality, elegance and craftsmanship, Wedgwood produced a large number of different lines, which included everything from fine art pottery to everyday table ware.
The company’s creative output can, however, he isolated into four distinct collecting areas: Jaspar Ware, Queen’s Ware, Collectibles and Table Ware.
Ask a non collector to describe Wedgwood’s output and they will no doubt think of Jaspar Ware. Typically Jaspar Ware items boast a light blue, matte base, decorated in white with scenes familiar to Greek and Roman mythology. Jaspar Ware is considered solely decorative.
The market value of Wedgwood Japsar Ware varies considerably. A pair of Wedgwood Jaspar Ware plates sold for $25 in the US in April 2005, while a black and white Jaspar Ware trinket box brought $10 also in April 2005.
Queen’s Ware was given the royal seal of approval by King George III’s wife Queen Charlotte. It is typified by an embossed leaf design. Colours vary, though pale blue and white remains incredibly popular.
Collectible items such as limited edition trinkets and figurals were produced by Wedgwood. Christmas ornaments, commemorative services, tourist items, pitchers, art pieces, and annual plate series are all included in this category.
This category encompasses the remainder of Wedgwood’s output, particularly of modern origin. Table settings, both formal and informal are considered part of this category.
If an item is unmarked, it is unlikely to be genuine Wedgwood – the company were assiduous in their product marking. The only exception to this might be is a piece is extremely old, in which case it is likely to hold some value. Unmarked pieces should be authenticated by an expert.
Wedgwood is not spelt with an e. Many fakes slip us, spelling Wedgwood “WEDGEWOOD”.
Enoch Wedgewood, a pottery brand in its own right, is significantly less prized than Wedgwood. Enoch Wedgewood wares generally feature a unicorn backstamp. Only buy these pieces if you love them as they have little to no collecting value.
A large Jaspar Ware Wedgwood plaque sold for $2,200 at FA in March 2012.
A pair of Wedgwood urns sold for $1,800 at Carlsen Gallery Inc. in February 2013.
A Wedgwood turkey platter sold for $1,500 at Dan Morphy Auctions in December 2006.
Three Wedgwood Jaspar Ware plaques sold for $950 at Mid Atlantic Auction in April 2012.
Five Wedgwood Queen’s Ware items sold for $450 at Skinner in September 2006.
A Wegewood Mie Josephine figurine sold for $120 at Tom Harris Auctions in April 2004.
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